Caring for hard landscaping in winter

Caring for hard landscaping in winter

Now that many plants have died back it’s a great time to tackle hard landscaping maintenance jobs, with expert advice from our partners, Amateur Gardening.

Once most plants have died back, and you've pruned shrubs for the winter, it will be easier to access fences and paths, you can move pots and furniture off the patio for access, and there’s less chance of doing damage to dormant plants in beds and borders. These tips explain how to tackle different types of hard landscaping.

Wooden decking

Mould and algae are the main problems affecting wooden decking, making them slippery in wet weather. A powerful pressure washer will remove them, but this method could damage the surface of the wood. Consider using one of the many chemical decking cleaners such as Ronseal Decking Cleaner and Reviver, or Cuprinol Decking Cleaner.

All you do is clear the deck, sweep down and scrape out muck from between the decking boards, then spray or scrub on the cleaning agent (spraying is less effort!). Some cleaners require you to wash down later. 

Leave the wood to dry thoroughly then check boarding is securely screwed down. If boards are loose, it’s worth lifting one or two and looking underneath to assess the condition of the base frame. If this is rotten, consider replacing the whole deck. If it’s OK, just replace damaged or rotting boards, then paint on two coats of a decking sealer/preservative.

Top tip: Give old decking a new lease of life with a coloured decking stain or paint. Consider carrying the colour theme through to fencing and wooden furniture for a completely harmonised look in your garden.

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Paved patios and paths

First sweep the surface, and remove weeds between cracks. As with wooden decking, a powerful pressure washer giving around 160-bar pressure will clean mould and algae from slabs effectively without risk of damage. This is the more organic option. Wear protective clothing, and avoid blasting anything other than the slabs! 

Modern chemical patio cleaning products (pictured) such as Patio Magic, from most DIY stores, are also very effective and easier to use than a pressure washer. Just spray, or water on, the cleaning agent. Washing off is usually unnecessary, but products vary so follow the instructions on the its packaging.

Top tip: If patio slabs have sunk and are no longer level, it should be possible to lift wonky ones out. Scratch out the grouting with a screwdriver blade and lever the slab up. Then add builders sand underneath, relay the slab and tap down gently with a wooden mallet until level. 

Sheds and fences

Repair leaky shed roofs with a fresh layer of roofing felt. Work from the gutters up the roof to the apex, laying the felt across the roof and overlapping generously as you go. Avoid joints at the roof apex, fix felt overlaps in place with roofing felt adhesive, nail around the edges with galvanised tacks 2in (5cm) apart, but never nail through the roof surface. 

Replace broken glass in shed windows. Try clear Perspex, available from DIY stores. It’s easy to cut with a fine-toothed saw or sharp Stanley knife, and doesn’t shatter like glass. 

Repair damaged woodwork on sheds, and replace broken fence posts and panels. If you’re building a new fence, invest in concrete posts with concrete gravel boards (available from good DIY outlets), which last for decades. Once they’re in place you just slide out old panels and slide in new ones. 

On a dry day, brush over wooden fences to remove loose material, then paint the surface thoroughly to help preserve it, with either an outdoor paint or shed/fence preservative paint (pictured). Protect plants from splashes with a plastic sheet as you go.

Ironwork

Wash down wrought iron gates and trellis. If they need repainting, unhitch climbing plants tied to trellis or cut back shrubs as necessary, then wire brush the surface thoroughly to remove rust and flaking paint. 

First, treat exposed metal with a red oxide primer. When it’s dry, brush on a paint recommended for outdoor metalwork, such as Hammerite. Protect plants from splashes. For a really thorough job you can get gates, obelisks and similar removable wrought iron items dipped to take off all traces of old paint, before repainting.

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Furniture

Plastic garden furniture just needs a wash. Brush wood and metal garden furniture to remove debris and insects. Wash down with warm, soapy water and leave to dry. 

Natural wood furniture should be lightly rubbed over with medium-grade sandpaper when dry, then painted with a wood furniture oil and left to dry thoroughly. It should then be covered if left outdoors, or stored under cover.

Painted wrought iron style furniture can be treated like ironwork, above.

Gravelled areas

Weed through gravelled paths and drives thoroughly by hand, and clear fallen leaves. Sweep back gravel that’s spilling out of place, but avoid getting soil or other organic material mixed in with this. Rake the gravel level across the area, topping up levels if necessary (bags are available from garden centres and DIY stores). 

In spring, water in a residual weedkiller. Only use one formulated for paths and drives, such as Pathclear, which continues to work for several months. And only use this on areas where you do not want any plant growth.

Brickwork

Brush down and check the pointing (the mortar between the bricks). Rake out any that's loose, and repoint it on a day when the weather is dry. Ready-formulated pointing mortar mixes are available from DIY stores.